Mr. Stilwell to Mr. Seward.

No. 8.]

Sir: In 1826 Samuel Hill, a citizen of the United States, and a native of Philadelphia, came to Venezuela in the employ of the Messrs. Dallets, of Philadelphia. He continued in Venezuela and in their employ until his death, which was some time during the year 1833.

When Mr. Hill came to Venezuela in 1826, he brought with him his family, among which was one son, Joseph Hill, then about nine years of age. The son, Joseph Hill, from the date of his arrival till the present time, has continued to reside in Venezuela. A number of years since he married a Venezuelan woman, by whom he has had two sons, aged respectively eighteen and twenty years.

Mr. Hill claims—and it is a fact which can be substantiated, I have no doubt, by excellent proof—that he has never done or performed any act in Venezuela to sever his citizenship from the United States. His sons have been drafted and placed in the ranks of the Venezuelan army, by the compulsory process which this government has adopted of taking recruits wherever they can find them.

Mr. Hill has called upon me several times, and requested my interference with the government of Venezuela for their discharge from service in the Venezuelan army, upon the ground that they are American citizens.

Desiring to act correctly in the premises, I made an examination into such rulings as the State Department at Washington had made in similar cases in Venezuela. I find by dispatch No. 22, of the State Department, bearing date 16th of March, 1860, to the honorable Edward A. Turpin, then minister resident near Venezuela, in response to an inquiry made by him to the State Department dispatch No. 25, of date February, 1860, that General Lewis Cass, then Secretary of State, held that children born in Venezuela of a father who was a citizen of the United States “are declared citizens of the United States.” In a later case, that of Thomas Idler, referred to in dispatch of honorable E. D. Culver, then resident minister to Venezuela, No. 47, date of December 15, 1863, the State [Page 935] Department at Washington, dispatch No. 58, of date January 25, 1864, held that it was “apprehended that it will not be expedient for us further to interfere in behalf of Mr. Thomas Idler, as it has uniformly been held in this country, and especially in several recent cases, that the children of foreigners born here are citizens of the United States.”

While I have declined to take any steps in regard to the release of the sons of Mr. Hill until fully advised what course to pursue by my government, the question is an important one in Venezuela, as there are many persons here, born in Venezuela, sons of citizens of the United States, who are now seeking the protection of my government from military duty. They have always acted upon the theory of being citizens of the United States.

I understand that nearly, if not all, the foreign powers represented at this court hold and protect as citizens the sons, although born in Venezuela, of fathers who are citizens of their respective countries. At all events, the question should be definitely settled.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.